I don't pay attention to baseball every single day. I don't have the kind of time. Instead of paying a little bit of attention on a regular basis, I pay it a lot of attention on an irregular basis. Sort of like how I clean my room or go on my bi-annual diet and fitness plan after a long period of bi-daily feedings and feasting.
So it was today that I woke up and checked Baseball-Reference to be surprised by a 35-34 San Diego Padres team. Last I had checked, they weren't good. Now, they aren't bad. Unsurprisingly, Jeff Sullivan has already written more and better words on the Padres today. They've rallied from a 5-15 start to having the second-best record in baseball since April 24.
And they're still pretty much the exact same Padres by name that I had last seen as being a terrible team without any shot of finishing the year above .500. Maybe my Mariners have hope after all. (haha)
But as Jeff points out, the Padres -- the same team that plays in an extreme pitchers park and almost never produces a fantasy star hitter -- are being rescued by their hitters and actually overcoming a horrific pitching staff. Would you believe that San Diego is actually in the market for pitching this time? Only two games back in the standings, with the lowest combined pitchers WAR in baseball, and a handful of prospects to move, the Padres are a prime candidate to add at least one pitcher and they'll likely do more than just that.
What are the possibilities? What do we know?
Clayton Richard ate up 218.2 innings last year and posted an ERA of 3.99, but that's about all he did. His 228 hits allowed led the league, as did the 31 ding dongs that he gave out to the
school kids hitters. Richard is coming off of his second win of the year, having allowed just one run in eight innings and no walks, but he got all of one strikeout during his start. And he lowered his ERA over a full run; to just 7.01!
A competitive team in September likely doesn't have Richard in it's rotation. It's incredible enough that Richard actually isn't posting the lowest WAR on the team (he's at -1.2) but that mark belongs to Jason Marquis. A likely Cy Young candidate with that 9-2 record and 3.63 ERA (am I right?), Marquis barely strikes out batters more than he walks them, and he hardly strikes out anyone while he walks a whole lot.
A competitive team in September likely doesn't have Marquis in it's rotation.
Eric Stults, Edinson Volquez, and Andrew Cashner could all stick, but Cashner (4.01 FIP, 3.52 ERA, 0.2 WAR) should not be your number three starter. Volquez (0.3 WAR) should not be your number two. The Padres need a couple of new starters and while it would be nice that they're better than Marquis and Richard, it would be much better if they're at least as good as Stults. If not a whole lot better.
Can they find that and can they afford that?
It would be a risky move for GM Jack Zduriencik, considering that almost every fan in Seattle that is sick of losing would gladly hand Jack a pink slip today after a series of moves that many think are questionable at best. Luckily, I am from the Seattle area and went to Washington State - so I'm not sick of losing, I'm used to it!
But Jack has to think about whether or not he has to make the best moves to save his job, or the best moves for the team. Trading a 32-year-old starting pitcher that has broken out for a Cy Young campaign out of nowhere and has an injury history already -- To me that possibly seems like the best move for the team if the return is right. Or it could be a disaster, considering that Iwakuma is the best pitcher that Felix Hernandez has paired with other than Cliff Lee. And even Iwakuma is in Cliff Lee territory right now.
However, Cliff Lee is just one of the many cautionary tales with trading starting pitchers in the Jack Z era. Lee, Brandon Morrow, Michael Pineda, and especially Doug Fister represent a group of starters that hasn't returned much value thus far.
In Fister, the Mariners traded one of the best number two starters in the league... for basically nothing. At this point, they've gotten some innings out of Charlie Furbush, but he's only a reliever and he walks too many. They got some at-bats out of Casper Wells, then released him this year. Francisco Martinez, the best prospect in the deal, was down to hitting .206/.242/.254 in AA this year, and was sent back to the Tigers for cash. And now Chance Ruffin could be the most interesting player left in the deal, having gone from a wild reliever, to a somewhat successful starter this year with better control but fewer strikeouts.
Of course, he also traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales, and that is working out. But is he willing to have another "Fister situation" on his hands with Iwakuma? It's not good enough anymore to trade for a top ten hitting prospect, he's going to need to get a real hitter in return. Or something that makes the team acquiring Iwakuma get criticized for what they gave up. Can he get that from the Padres?
San Diego came into the year with a deep farm system, but not a top heavy one. There won't be any top ten hitting prospects in the fold -- and maybe that's a good thing for the Mariners.
What the M's ask for: Everth Cabrera. They're not going to get it, but you're not going to get $5000 for your POGS collection on Pawn Stars. It just happens to be where you start. It's hard to believe now that Cabrera would be too much for a guy pitching like Iwakuma is, but he's now the MVP of the Padres.
What the Padres counter with: Jaff Decker, Robbie Erlin, Yasmani Grandal, Burch Smith. The package is reminiscent of the package sent in return for Fister, featuring some players that could were former prospects like Decker and Grandal but with potential to still be good. To a guy that's hot right now like Smith, posting a 1.52 ERA in nine starts over AA and AAA, but three horrendous starts in the majors.
What they'd need to settle on: Hisashi Iwakuma and Carson Smith for Kyle Blanks, Burch Smith, Jaff Decker, and Reymond Fuentes. Iwakuma gives the Padres the number one starter they seek, while adding the 23-year-old Smith to a bullpen that is also desperately bad. Smith walks too many, but the M's don't need to give up an elite relief prospect like Carter Capps here. Just a decent one.
It stings for the Padres to give up on Blanks, but like I said before, it needs to sting. The Padres can keep Carlos Quentin and Will Venable at the corners, with Yonder Alonso entrenched at first base. Blanks can come in and play a number of positions with the Mariners, including first base for the long term. Smith, Decker, and Fuentes represent a number of positional needs within the organization, and give just enough potential to complete the deal.
Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
Johnson is hitting a lot of notes of being a highly-likely trade candidate at the moment. The Blue Jays are a disaster, and much like the Marlins that Johnson was acquired from, or the Red Sox of 2012, Toronto will start needing to shed this mess. Johnson is an impending free agent that almost certainly wouldn't be re-signed by a team currently paying $109 million for a losing record. He hasn't been healthy, and he hasn't been great, but he's still Josh Johnson.
A return to the National League, and a move to Petco Park, could be a great move for all parties involved. And we want everyone to have a good party.
But Johnson is only healthyish at the moment, no longer on the DL but recently suffering a blister that got a start pushed back, and he should be a more affordable option for the Padres over Iwakuma. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays just need to get back some of the prospect value they lost in putting together this losing club in a division that they'll never catch up in.
What the Blue Jays ask for: Burch Smith, Reymond Fuentes, and Austin Hedges. Fuentes is a shortstop that was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 2009, and has had a breakout season with the AA San Antonio Missions, hitting .332/.419/.472 with 5 HR and 23 stolen bases with 50 K and 31 BB.
Hedges, a catcher, was Baseball America's #58 prospect going into the year, and is hitting .274/.358/.427 with 20 K and 15 BB in the California League with Lake Elsinore. He's still just 20 years old.
It's too much for Johnson, an oft injured pitcher having a down year and that's only a rental.
What the Padres counter with: Hedges. The Blue Jays dealt away perhaps their best prospect when they moved Travis d'Arnaud for RA Dickey. J.P. Arencibia has posted 1.9 WAR in 304 career games with a .267 OBP.
It's a bang-bang straight-up deal that could work for both teams.
What they settle on: Johnson and Brett Cecil for Hedges, Fuentes, and Keyvious Sampson. I don't see the Padres walking away from a deal for a starter without at least inquiring on some desperately needed relief pitching. Huston Street is worth less per inning than both Marquis and Richard. Cecil has had an outstanding year, and the Blue Jays have no need right now for an outstanding middle reliever, but it juices the pot enough to get the shortstop they want. Sampson had a terrible run in AAA this year, but is only 22 and has posted 9.8 K/9 in his minor league career.
I wanna talk to Sampson!
It wouldn't surprise me if the Blue Jays juiced the pot even more in a deal, but they won't get salary relief from the Padres. Only prospects. That means they won't move Mark Buerhle or R.A. Dickey in any deal with the Padres.
The Brewers are no strangers to big trade deadline deals, but they'll need to be the ones doing the getting-rid-of this year. They competed for awhile, but then Yuniesky Betancourt looked into a mirror.
Gallardo is good, proven, affordable, and better than anyone on the Padres. The Brewers, at 28-40, and sporting one of the worst farm systems going into the year, need more hope for the future. They've had pleasant surprises from Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, but they've got long-term issues at first base and in the rotation. They can move Gallardo now in an attempt to fill several of those holes.
What the Brewers ask for: Kyle Blanks, Keyvious Sampson, Matt Wisler.
Blanks is the immediate first baseman for the Brewers. Sampson and Wisler move into the Brewers minor league system as possibly their top two pitching prospects. Wisler, 20, is a fast riser that cleaned up in High-A (2.03 ERA in six starts) and has done very well as one of the youngest players in AA (38 innings, 32 K, 12 BB, 4.26 ERA.)
But it's hard to imagine the Padres giving up Blanks, a person important in their plans this year, in addition to Wisler and Sampson for a guy that's having a bit of an off year.
What the Padres counter with: Sampson, Wisler, and Decker for Gallardo.
Two pitching prospects and a formerly-good hitting prospect in Decker that is hitting .249/.367/.392 in AAA this year.
The Brewers pluck their top two pitching prospects, a former top ten pick in Spangenberg that has struggled but is still just 22, and Decker, who still has a good eye at the plate. Estrada is posting a 5.32 ERA but with good K and BB numbers, he and Gallardo could supplant the bottom two pitchers in the rotation right now. Axford hasn't been what he used to be, but he's an upgrade in the San Diego bullpen.
It's probably not a deal that Brewers fans would like, giving up their top two starters, but they need to chuck this year and start rebuilding the farm system.
Their rotation would suck but after all -- a good starter could always be had on the free agent market.
(*sits back and waits for the hate mail*)